What is hospice?
Hospice is a healthcare model that focuses on providing a high quality of life during the last months, days and hours of life. Hospice care recognizes that life expectancy is no longer than six months and there is no further benefit from curative treatments. It focuses on relieving symptoms and increasing comfort.
The goal of hospice is to provide quality compassionate care for people with life-limiting illnesses until death occurs naturally. Hospice care includes palliative care which serves to prevent, treat, or eliminate discomfort whenever and however it appears. Palliative care emphasizes the total well-being of the patient and of caregivers and family. You may hear the term palliative care used to describe the type of medical and physical care given in hospice programs.
Hospice care allows people with advanced pancreatic cancer to spend the remainder of their lives peacefully, surrounded by those they love. Hospice can provide a variety of services, including:
- Medical and physical care, including the best pain-control treatments available
- Emotional and spiritual care for the pancreatic cancer patient and their loved ones
- Practical care assistance for the patient and their loved ones
Most often hospice care is provided in the home with a family member, partner, friend and/or hired caregiver providing and managing day-to-day care. A hospice organization provides care through a team of professionals and volunteers who work closely with the pancreatic cancer patient and their loved ones. Members of the hospice team regularly visit the patient in their home. Hospice care workers are trained to support the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of patients and their loved ones at the end of life.
While most hospice care is given in the home, inpatient hospice care is also available through hospice facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. Inpatient care is usually used to manage pain and other symptoms that cannot be addressed at home.
Does choosing hospice mean giving up hope?
Many people are afraid to ask about hospice care because they believe that using hospice means giving up. Hospice is not about giving up. Choosing hospice allows families to focus their energy on quality of life. Hospice care provides an opportunity to make meaningful choices and to have those choices respected. If the patient’s condition improves or the disease goes into remission, the patient may be discharged from hospice and return to active cancer treatment, if desired. Hospice can be resumed at a later time if it is needed.
Hospice is not about losing hope. However, what patients and their loved ones hope for may change. Using hospice services can help patients find hope for new things like getting the care they deserve, feeling relief from pain, spending valuable time with family and friends, or finding peace and acceptance in their lives.
When should hospice be discussed, and who brings up the subject?
Hospice can be discussed at any time. The patient may ask about hospice first, or a caregiver, family member, partner, doctor, nurse or social worker may bring up hospice as a possible option. Do what feels best for you and your loved ones. Many physicians hesitate to initiate conversations about hospice because they do not want patients to think they are giving up on treating them.
Cancer patients are sometimes ready to enter hospice before their loved ones are prepared for this step. There may come a point when the patient no longer wants to fight the disease even when caregivers or family members suggest that treatments continue. The pancreatic cancer patient may simply want to rest and focus his or her time and energy on quality of life rather than on a cure. If you are a patient who feels this way, be clear with your loved ones and your health care team about your wishes. Alternately, a caregiver or family member may recommend hospice as an option before the patient is ready. Or, a patient and his or her family may simply choose not to use hospice.
If you think that hospice care should be considered but are not sure how to start this conversation with your loved ones, ask a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, hospice social worker, hospice care provider, or another trusted professional, to help you and your loved ones talk about these difficult issues and understand what options are available.
Hospice services and practical care
Medical and physical care
Emotional and spiritual care
End-of-Life Care Planning
Caregiver roles and responsibilities
Questions to discuss with hospice providers
Additional hospice resources
We’re Here to Help
For more information on hospice or for free, in-depth and personalized resources and information on pancreatic cancer, contact a PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager.